The Army Is Looking For A Special Artillery Shell That Can Totally Paralyze Enemy Cities

Gear

If the Army has its way, America’s next secret weapon may be an electromagnetic pulse artillery shell that paralyzes an enemy city. These special shells won’t carry high explosive.


These special shells won’t carry high explosive. Instead, they will emit EMP bursts, or some other non-kinetic technology, to disrupt the computers, radio communications, Internet links and other ties that bind modern societies. And do so without creating any physical damage.

This is sort of a twenty-first-century version of the neutron bomb, that notorious Cold War weapon designed to kill Soviet soldiers through a burst of radiation while inflicting little damage to property — except this weapon targets the radio frequency networks that keep a nation functioning.

The concept is expressed in a single paragraph in a new Army research proposal:

Extensive use of wireless RF [radio frequency] networking for critical infrastructure and communications systems provides an alternative attack vector for the neutralization of an adversary’s underlying industrial, civil, and communications infrastructure without the destruction of the hardware associated with those systems. Advances in munitions-based microelectronics and power technologies make possible the implementation of non-kinetic cyber and electromagnetic – or electronic warfare (EW) – attacks that could be delivered via artillery launched munitions. The precision delivery of the non-kinetic effects (NKE) electronics payload close to the target allows low power operation which limits the geographical extent of impacted systems, and reduces the overall impact on the electromagnetic spectrum.

In addition, the weapon must fit in a 155-millimeter artillery projectile, with the eventual goal of shrinking the weapon’s size so that a single shell can carry multiple submunitions, each capable of creating electronic havoc.

However, the proposal does not specify how all this is to be accomplished. A query to the Army didn’t shed much light. In an email response, the project scientist said that the project is “open to a broad range of non-kinetic effects.” In fact, the artillery shells don’t even have to be 155-millimeter, but “maybe any other caliber that has the space to place an electronic subsystem that can be used to neutralize an enemy infrastructure and computer-based systems.”

Nonetheless, some kind of electromagnetic pulse shell would appear to be a likely candidate. EMPs, those short but intense bursts of radiation that fry electronics, are generated by nuclear weapons. The United States has long been concerned that a nuclear device, especially one detonated at high altitudes, could massively disrupt the electronic fabric of American society.

However, conventional weapons, such as bombs and missiles, can also generate EMP bursts. North Korea allegedly has such devices, and Russia claims to have equipped aircraft and drones with them, while the Pentagon has been working on high-power microwave weapons for years.

Whether such microwave weapons are effective or reliable is another matter. But regardless of how the artillery shell disables electronics, what’s interesting is that artillery will be the delivery system.

Nuclear and nonnuclear EMP bombs, delivered by aircraft or missiles, can be launched at targets hundreds or thousands of miles away. But a shell launched from a 155-millimeter howitzer suggests the targets will only be ten or twenty miles away.

In other words, what the Army wants is a battlefield weapon for U.S. troops in fairly close proximity to enemy forces. Except that the research proposal isn’t asking for devices that would disrupt, say, Chinese or Russian military command-and-control systems.

Instead the Army speaks of paralyzing “an adversary’s underlying industrial, civil, and communications infrastructure.” This sounds more like some form of strategic bombing. Or perhaps, it could be used to cripple an enemy city prior to an assault or a siege by U.S. ground troops.

The fact that the Army also desires a low-power weapon that precisely targets a small geographic area and a specific portion of the electromagnetic spectrum also suggests that the Pentagon is aware of the possibility of collateral damage. An artillery shell that fries the power supply for a government ministry is one thing, but frying the power supply to a hospital or water-treatment plant is another.

This article originally appeared at The National Interest.

More articles from The National Interest:

WATCH NEXT:

Photo via DoD
(U.S. Air Force photo)

An Air Force major drowned in a Caribbean Princess cruise ship pool Friday morning, the Broward Medical Examiner's Office said

Stephen Osakue, 37, worked for the Air Force as a research pharmacist, according to a statement by the Medical Examiner's Office on Monday. Osakue was based at Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi.

Read More Show Less
(Facebook)

A Marine was killed in a crash near Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort on Saturday afternoon.

Lance Cpl. Derrick Thirkill, 21, of Florence, Alabama, was an active-duty Marine stationed in Beaufort, said Beaufort County Coroner Ed Allen.

Read More Show Less
An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington, June 15, 2005. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the Guantanamo prison against critics who want it closed by saying U.S. taxpayers have a big financial stake in it and no other facility could replace it at a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday. (Reuters/Jason Reed JIR/CN)

The Pentagon is sending nearly 1,000 more troops to the Middle East as part of an escalating crisis with Iran that defense officials are struggling to explain.

While the U.S. government has publicly blamed Iran for recent attacks on merchant vessels in the Gulf of Oman, not a single U.S. official has provided a shred of proof linking Iran to the explosive devices found on the merchant ships.

At an off-camera briefing on Monday, Navy officials acknowledged that nothing in imagery released by the Pentagon shows Iranian Revolutionary Guards planting limpet mines on ships in the Gulf of Oman.

Read More Show Less
Photo: Lance Cpl. Taylor Cooper

The Marine lieutenant colonel removed from command of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May was ousted over alleged "misconduct" but has not been charged with a crime, Task & Purpose has learned.

Lt. Col. Francisco Zavala, 42, who was removed from his post by the commanding general of 1st Marine Division on May 7, has since been reassigned to the command element of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and a decision on whether he will be charged is "still pending," MEF spokeswoman 1st Lt. Virginia Burger told Task & Purpose last week.

"We are not aware of any ongoing or additional investigations of Lt. Col. Zavala at this time," MEF spokesman 2nd Lt. Brian Tuthill told Task & Purpose on Monday. "The command investigation was closed May 14 and the alleged misconduct concerns Articles 128 and 133 of the UCMJ," Tuthill added, mentioning offenses under military law that deal with assault and conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.

"There is a period of due process afforded the accused and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty," he said.

When asked for an explanation for the delay, MEF officials directed Task & Purpose to contact 1st Marine Division officials, who did not respond before deadline.

The investigation of Zavala, completed on May 3 and released to Task & Purpose in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, showed that he had allegedly acted inappropriately. The report also confirmed some details of his wife's account of alleged domestic violence that Task & Purpose first reported last month.

Read More Show Less
Photo: U.S. Army

A soldier was killed, and another injured, after a Humvee roll-over on Friday in Alaska's Yukon Training Area, the Army announced on Monday.

Read More Show Less